Coping with Dementia as a Family

Dealing with dementia can be difficult for families. Not only do parents find themselves battling with their own emotions and the struggles of accepting that their own parent is slowing slipping away, but trying to explain to small children why grandma or grandpa suddenly doesn’t remember them can be especially tough. Dementia brings complexities that can easily leave one searching for answers on how to explain to children what dementia is and that their grandpa or grandma still loves them. It can also leave one wondering if maybe it isn’t best to shelter their children from the effects of dementia in order to leave their children with a pristine memory of their grandparent, untarnished by the emotional pain that dementia brings in.


Unfortunately, there are no easy answers in how to “properly” navigate the struggles that dementia in an aging grandparent presents to their children and grandchildren. However, it is important to remember a few things.


Firstly, your mother or father is still the same person. Yes, they will have good days where their memory is untouched and yes, they will have bad days when they won’t know where they are or who anyone is. But through all of this they are still the same person and dementia is affecting them more so than anyone else. This can be a very scary time as they confront the reality of their own mortality and the possibility that what they are experiencing at any given time may not be real. Your mother or father needs the love and support that only family can provide.


Secondly, life is not easy. It is filled with challenges and hardships and trying to shelter our children from difficulties and unpleasant situations doesn’t make life easier for them. In fact, it actually has the opposite effect in that children who are spared from facing their own challenges and dealing with some of the harsh realities of life -such as death- are deprived the opportunities to develop healthy coping strategies and often have an inaccurate and incomplete view on life.


When dealing with dementia, there are no easy answers. How you handle the effects of dementia in regards to your children is ultimately up to you. Remembering that there are many people who will be effected by this decision and remembering to act with love for everyone involved will help you to make the right choice for you and for everyone in your family.